Jacko’s Comeback Plan

Less than 24 hours after Michael Jackson underwhelmed the world with a much-hyped press conference at London’s O2 Arena, additional details are beginning to emerge about the singer’s grand comeback plan.

The Wall Street Journal reports Jackson’s O2 residency in July is one small part of a deal with promoter AEG Live that could kick-start his career and refill his coffers.

The touring deal with AEG Live could be worth as much as $400 million for Jackson over three and a half years. The first phase of the tour includes 10 concerts at London’s O2 Arena beginning July 8, but he has the option to extend the run for additional dates at venues spread across three continents.

Not a bad deal for an undeniably risky performer who hasn’t done a full-scale tour (or completed any project for that matter) in a dozen years. And it looks like money isn’t the only thing MJ’s gunning for in London.

Depending on the strength of ticket sales for the first 10 shows, Jackson may add more dates at the O2, with the ultimate goal of exceeding the record-setting 21-night stand by Prince in 2007. Depending on how many dates he adds, Jackson’s take from the London concerts alone could be between $30 million and $50 million, according to people familiar with the matter.

AEG Live President Randy Phillips told BBC it could actually be “north of $50 million” and hinted at something else Jackson’s fans have been waiting a long time for.

“We’re talking to him about helping him figure a new plan for the release of singles, new music.”

According to the WSJ, another facet of the plan is a project that Jackson has been trying to get off the ground for several years now.

As part of the deal, AEG’s corporate parent, Anschutz Corp., agreed to invest in a pet project of Mr. Jackson’s, a 3-D feature film based on his song and music video “Thriller.”

All of this seems like a lot of money to invest in someone who has a track record of flaking on projects and deals, but AEG Live and Colony Capital, which bought the mortgage on Jackson’s Neverland Ranch last year, appear to be taking as few chances as possible.

People close to the singer say that he is eager to return to work.

“Between Anschutz and us, he’s got plenty of capital,” said Tom Barrack, Colony’s chief executive. “He’s serious, he’s focused, he’s healthy and he’s listening.”

To obtain insurance for the tour, AEG arranged for an independent physician to conduct a five-hour physical exam of Mr. Jackson. “He passed with flying colors,” said Phillips.

Tohme Tohme, who works for Colony and has been acting as Jackson’s manager for the past year, told the WSJ the singer might actually be in a better place than he’s ever been.

“For the first time in his life, Michael Jackson has people around him who believe in him and look after him,” Tohme said, “and are trying to help him and advance his career.”